Skip to comments.WSJ: Hiroshima - Nuclear weapons, then and now.
Posted on 08/05/2005 5:08:42 AM PDT by OESY
Today--or August 6 in Japan--is the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which killed outright an estimated 80,000 Japanese and hastened World War II to its conclusion on August 15. Those of us who belong to the postwar generations tend to regard the occasion as a somber, even shameful, one. But that's not how the generation of Americans who actually fought the war saw it. And if we're going to reflect seriously about the bomb, we ought first to think about it as they did.
...No surprise, then, that when news of the bomb reached Lt. Fussell and his men, they had no misgivings about its use: "...We were going to live."...
What about Japanese lives?... Since the ratio of Japanese to American combat fatalities ran about four to one, a mainland invasion could have resulted in millions of Japanese deaths--and that's not counting civilians....
Also true is that the threat nuclear weapons pose today is probably greater than ever before. That's not because they're more plentiful--thanks to the 2002 Moscow Treaty (negotiated by John Bolton), U.S. and Russian arsenals are being cut to levels not seen in 40 years. It's because nuclear know-how and technology have fallen into the hands of men such as A.Q. Khan and Kim Jong Il, and they, in turn, are but one degree of separation away from the jihadists who may someday detonate a bomb in Times or Trafalgar Square....
Looking back after 60 years, who cannot be grateful that it was Truman who had the bomb, and not Hitler or Tojo or Stalin? And looking forward, who can seriously doubt the need for might always to remain in the hands of right? That is the enduring lesson of Hiroshima, and it is one we ignore at our peril.
(Excerpt) Read more at opinionjournal.com ...
>>to the extent that their deaths afforded my grandfather the opportunity to live
So you'd trade two cities for your grandfather? Isn't that rather selfish? Trust me, your grandfather isn't worth two cities... None of us are..
>>And there are today many Japanese who are damned glad the war ended when it did, otherwise they would never have lived to see 1946.
I'm sure there are over 100,000 who would disagree with them -- cept they died in the blast.
It's always easy to sacrifice someone else for one's own preservation. That doesn't mean they are right.
>>I lived in Japan in the 1950s and got to know many of them. Unless you have firsthand information on the subject, the kindest word for your rant would be "revisionist."
Your ancedotal experience does not mean Japan as a whole is thankful for the bomb. And I have not participated in revisionism.
Please reference all future inquiries to my tag line!
>>Idiots are idiots because they are too stupid to know that they are idiots.
I'm trying to promote intelligent discourse on this issue -- that's not an idiotic idea.
Simply using expletives, referring one to your tag line, and an unwillingness to intelligently discuss this issue all fits within the definition of idiocy.
>>It was them or us.
That's a false dichotomy. They weren't going to nuke us...
Why don't you ask God to explain Soddom and Gomorrah. I'm sure there were innocents there. You're argument is basically that "war is bad". Fine. But what's the difference between death by 5.56 mm or 20 megatons? You're still dead. Either all war and all killing is immoral, or there are times when war and killing are justified. Why don't you just come out and say what you really feel and not hide behind your "morality"
My Navy father-in-law (lightingguy's dad) was on his way over also and then his ship was turned around.
>>You're argument is basically that "war is bad". Fine.
War is bad, but often necessary -- sometimes its the only choice.
>>But what's the difference between death by 5.56 mm or 20 megatons?
Well, you can duck while being shot at.. But you can't really duck an Abomb...
To someone that was sitting in a ship off of coastal Japan (me), it wouldn't be a very difficult decision to make. The Japanese rape of Nanking, the atrocities they committed in the Phillipines, Pearl Harbor and all thrown together with Iwo Jima and Okinawa added up to a no-brainer.
The Japanese didn't know the meaning of humanity and in consequence learned, we hope a lasting lesson.
Yep. And I'd trade ANY American soldier/sailor/airmen/marine's life in that bargain: in a war they didn't start, against a fanatical enemy that deserved to be defeated.
Trust me, your grandfather isn't worth two cities
Trust me, asshole: he was worth a million of you, any day of the week. And all the ashes in Hiroshima & Nagasaki put together, to boot.
But civilians will always die in modern conflict, particularly in urban areas. If the death of civilians is the issue, and we agree that civilians will always be killed, then why not argue that war itself is a crime?
Or another avenue is, where is the line between combatant and non-combatant in this modern age? Civilian factory workers for war industries, agriculture workers who harvest food to feed armies, skilled civilian technicians or engineers...if there were a direct line between their job and sustaining the war effort, why wouldn't those civilians be legitimate military targets?
What about a society so rigorously militarized, as imperial Japan was, that any citizen could be a combatant? And aside from civilian considerations, what about the hard military targets in both Hiroshima or Nagasaki?
1st, it is sad that the war was fought at all, let alone with such savagery. And it is unfortunate that science, scholarship, technology, and war came together in such a way to give us atomic weapons.
But bombing of cities was brought on by the Nazis in England. You know as well as I that once the adversary goes past the limits, he should expect the same treatment back.
Japan was utterly, unquestionably crushed. There was no chance for a Japanese Dolchstoss theory, no opportunity for the empire to be retained and resurgent later.
Finally, had Japan not initiated the Pacific war, then fought it with total disregard for the generally accepted laws of land warfare, it might have ended differently for them.
One upmanship in the force continuum in self defense is absolutely justifiable.
We won, get over it.
You are perhaps one of the most naive, history deficient adults (Lets hope you are an adult) to comment on a subject of which you have no knowledge.
Why did those "God fearing civilian Christians in Nagasaki", many of whom were most likely involved in Japan's war effort, not heed the warning that God provided them, courtesy of the United States, to get out of town and avoid death?
Front side of OWI notice #2106, dubbed the LeMay bombing leaflet, which was delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and 33 other Japanese cities on 1 August 1945. The Japanese text on the reverse side of the leaflet carried the following warning: Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America's humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately. (See Richard S. R. Hubert, The OWI Saipan Operation, Official Report to US Information Service, Washington, DC 1946.)
Stick to the issue please...
Lived there ten years. More than anecdotal.
He has. The "issue" is that you don't know what you're talking about, and are a troll trying to disrupt to boot.
Why don't you try sticking to the issue, and answering the historical realities that have been raised and which have, effectively, made you look silly?
You are a fool. A total delusional fool. Do you realize how many people were not killed because we dropped the two A-Bombs?
The Japanese were going to fight to the death. Based on our experience fighting in the South Pacific, we realized these people would fight till the end and that the only way we would win is if we showed them we would kill every last one if that is what they wanted.
After we dropped the first one, they thought we shot our load. After we dropped the second one, they thought we might have an endless supply. It was only then they quit.
So, it would have been better for us to lose hundreds of thousands of more of our own soldiers?
....and so was Cologne, so what! Just what, exactly, is your point?
Does the words Pearl Harbor mean anything to you????
In my time here on FR, I have never read a statement as stated above, filled with such ignorance and cowardice.
Try that one out on a WWII Pacific veteran...make sure you count your teeth beforehand.
Something tells me that part of that sentence is false.
My father, a naval aviator, had orders to ship out to okinawa for the invasion. We are very likely alive because they dropped the bomb....
"Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation. "
(Catechism of the Catholic Church)
If you were really in the Army, your anti-American attitude would most certainly earn you a much-deserved "pillow party."
What planet are you from? People die in wars. They started the war.
*ping your cowardly little crew, and I'll be delighted to answer each one of them, in dismissive order, about this matter.
I believe that was your intent
I'm sure you find it unbelievable that a conservative......
You're the only one claiming that you are conservative.
You can't understand how someone can disagree...
No, it's the issue in the time, place and context that you have chosen.
But I challenge you to consider that committing a regional genocide against civilians is a crime against humanity.
In the time, place and context, just the opposite is true. If you want villains, look to the Japanese High Command. You seem to have excused their complicity in this, "crime against humanity".
I challenge you to look past a blind faith about the bomb and apply some critical thinking here..
That has been done for 60 years. When all the options and their consequences are considered, dropping the bomb is the best of many bad options.
Did God fearing civilian Christians in Nagasaki deserve to die?
Did small children deserve to die?
Is it true justice to intentionally kill people who aren't in the military?
"Justice" has little to do with war and I doubt if you can even define it. However, when civilians are involved in their country's war efforts, as the Japanese were, they become, by default, legitimate targets.
Would I think it be ok for this to happen had I lived in one those cities at the time?
WWII was not all about YOU. (though I suspect that you have a personal, rather than moral or intellectual agenda, regarding your opinion).
Folks, it's time to put the thinking cap on and take the dogma cap off.
I see that you did and arrived at the wrong answer. Put it on again and see what other revisionism that you can come up with to enrage the troops. That's your intent, isn't it? I thought so. In the end, it's "all about you". In effect, you decided to drop a bomb of your own. You're an intellectual hypocrite.
That may be so; I won't quibble about the word "abomination".
What is absent from these discussions, regularly, frequently, and predictably, is condemnation of Japanese operations that were no less destructive or lethal as atomic bombs.
That absence suggests the anti-nuke folks prefer to ignore those in favor of highlighting, even villifying, America's actions
Yeah, like the term "army man"!
All of the special-pleading arguments pointing to the American lives saved skip over the question of just why an invasion would have been necessary in the first place. By the summer of 1945, Japan was whipped and powerless -- no longer a threat to American interests. Invasion of the home islands may have been a political necessity -- blood lust is insatiable in some, as this thread makes clear -- but it's hard to see how invasion would have made the USA more safe.
Yeah, I'll bet to him it is something that was the USA's fault.
It would get him more than that. I suspect that he has a personal stake in this topic. Perhaps he had a distant relative at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It's possible and I think probable. He's too emotionally connected to the Japanese point of view, than an American soldier who is about to lose his life in an invasion of Honshu.
He implies the US Army, but I think the Japanese Army is closer to the truth.
Focusing on the destruction of these military targets would have been morally justified -- yes, even if there was quite a bit of honestly "collateral" damage. I would go so far as to say the USA was morally obliged to destroy as much of Japan's war-making capacity as possible.
However, the killing of civilians was certainly part of the U.S. strategic intention. The shock of seeing an entire city, together with its inhabitants, turned in a moment into a raging inferno, was decided upon in order to break the Japanese will to resist.
The number of casualties isn't what makes it murder. The choice of weapons (conventional or atomic) isn't what makes it murder. It's the fact that the decision-makers decided to indiscriminately kill civilians as a means to an end.
By the way, it's very much to America's credit that we DON'T do that in places like Iraq. The USA forces (as far as I know) have strained every muscle to protect civilians, even under the most desperate circumstances.
That's what constitutes the one of the main differences between the USA and the Islamo-fascists. I'd like to keep that distinction clear.
There was actually two alternatives. The first was for the Japs to surrender when we warned them before dropping the first bomb that they we were about to hit them with a weapon of mass destruction. The second alternative was for the Japs to unconditionally surrender after we dropped the first bomb and warned them that we were about to drop a second if they did not surrender.
You wrote: "What is absent from these discussions, regularly, frequently, and predictably, is condemnation of Japanese operations that were no less destructive or lethal as atomic bombs...That absence suggests the anti-nuke folks prefer to ignore those in favor of highlighting, even villifying, America's actions."
You've got a good point there. At least, it's one that I strongly agree with.
If you will look at post #90, you will see a distinction between collateral deaths (which may be morally tolerated) and indiscriminate killing (which is forbidden.)
An awful lot of collateral deaths were justified during WWII, especially considering the phenomenal murderousness of the Axis Powers. I don't deny that.
The objection is, that the civilians killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not collateral deaths. These deaths were intentional, inasmuch as (1) the US chose to use indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction and (2) the US intended that the psychological effect of a butchery of such magnitude would shock the Japanese High Command.
Who can deny that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima would have been considered a dud, if (by some fluke) only the military targets had been destroyed, and the civilians remained pretty much unscathed?
We must make a distinction between killing, and murder. Killing --- and, realistically speaking, quite a lot of it --- may be justified if, at he same time, we are honestly trying to shield the civilian population as much as possible. "Shielding the civilian population" is what we are doing in Iraq, where our military has clearly tried to minimize harm to noncombatants (even under horribly difficult circumstance.)
I salute the US military for this. This is courageous, and honorable, soldiering.
That's my point. Honorable soldiers don't target civilians. George Washington didn't target civilians. Robert E. Lee didn't target civilians.
The indiscriminate killing of civilians is, in fact, prohibited by the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice. It's against God's law, international law, and the law of the USA.
Only as a matter of convenience and "enemy of my enemy". If Stalin had the bomb at the end of WW-II, and we didn't', WW-III would have commenced very shortly thereafter. The world would have been a very different place than it is today.
LOL... I sure was, but I'm able to think independently of the others. Ie, I'm not into groupthink...
Although I don't agree with you, I understand your position. You remind me of the very conservative Catholic who works in my office. He is extremely anti-abortion, anti-suicide, anti-right-to-die, anti-death penalty, and anti-war in all but the most extreme cirumstances, which he is unable to define. He goes to Mass almost every morning and refuses to socialize with anyone who has divorced, and he and his wife home-school their seven kids. He also thinks that the firebombing of Dresson and the dropping of the A-Bombs in Japan were crimes against humanity. I will ask you the same questions I have asked my co-worker: Looking back with the benefit of hind-sight, what would you have done differently to end the war in both Europe and the Pacific? The guy from my office has yet to answer the question. Can you? (Please note that holding hands and singing "Kumbia" is not an option.)
Maybe not, but they either supported, or did not oppose, those who enslaved the Chinese, Filipinos, Malaysians, Southeast Asians, Koreans, etc, and beheaded folks in those countries as well as Americans.
Perhaps not, but we couldn't know that for certain at the time. They were doing some work in the field. They were going to kill lots of American and allied troops though, if a forced landing and land campaign on their home islands would have become necessary.
You see it was not just one person's grandfather that would have been lost, but millions of folks' grandfathers, including millions of current day Japanese who would have lost both grandfathers and grandmothers, not mention uncles and aunts, great uncles and aunt, even parents.
My father's ship turned around and came back to the US after Japan's surrender. My brother was stationed in Japan for more than a decade. While there he married a local woman whose father was in training to join the Imperial army when they surrendered.
Fast forward to 10 years ago when my parents went to Japan for a visit. The entire family (American parents and Japanese parents) went to one of the memorials, I don't remember if it was Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Anyway, my nephew was 9 at the time and the only truly bilingual family member. His Japanese grandfather asked him to translate a question to my dad. "Please, ask him how he felt to go there." My dad thought for a moment and responded, "Please tell him that I am glad we can go there today as family, never having to have fought one another. The bloodshed would have never ended." The Japanese grandfather rose to his feet and said in English, "I agree".
Then they embraced and becamed great friends.
The indiscriminate killing of civilians is against the UCMJ et al. However, if civilians are killed in the conduct of otherwise lawful operations, there is no crime.
Destroying the military facilities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in addition to war plant, railroads, other lines of communication, all were bona fide military targets by the measure of the day. Each city was relatively untouched up to that point in the war. Absent precision weapons- a very recent innovation- the way to come close to attriting such targets was to attack a whole area.
Consider, for example, the relentless bombing attacks against Germany, where portions of large cities were flattened to take out a single factory. Bloodthirstiness was not foremost on the Allies' minds, but military effectiveness. And sending umpteen waves of bombers against a single area target was the only way, at the time, to effectively accomplish the mission.
Furthermore, and again considering the mentality of the time, "shielding" the Japanese population was probably not seriously considered nor, even if it were, was it plausible. Particularly considering the depth of that society's militarism, where every member was expected to fight to the death for the emperor. Whether that was a plausible scenario or not upon reflection, that was the generally understood situation at the time.
I think the core of our disagreement is whether there was sufficient military cause to justify destroying both cities, despite the civilian (ie, not direct uniformed combatant) cost of doing so. You must bear in mind that other munitions available might have caused even more death than the nukes did, and would surely have been used.
In terms of the immediate tactical problem, reasonably ensuring the destruction of whatever units and war plant were located there to support amphibious attack...possibly not.
In terms of the strategic problem of finishing the war by defeating the enemy, and defeat it such that there could be no doubt about victor and vanquished (and thereby preclude a post- WW1-style resurgence), I feel the atomic bombs were justified.
I don't take any pleasure from it, and I don't celebrate it. But I see their usage as a brutal conclusion to a brutal conflict.
There are many factors that have bearing on the operative word, "indiscriminate".
A very informative article was cited in a recent FR thread entitled, Why Truman dropped the Bomb (Long but a very interesting read).
What ever side you come down on, it is clear that the decision to drop the A-bombs was not taken lightly.
Even with the benefit afforded to retrospective analysis, I'm not sure the decision was altogether wrong.